Don't feed emotions!

Don't feed emotions!

Don't feed emotions!

Angry? French Fries to the rescue. Broken heart? A tub of chocolate ice cream to the rescue. Tensed? A plateful of creamy, cheesy pasta to the rescue. Are you unable to keep your hands off food, even when you are not hungry?

If you found yourself nodding in agreement to any of the above, it is possible that you let your feelings overrule your appetite. This might be suggestive of an emotional eating disorder.

Emotional eating disorder is what happens when people use eating as a response to an emotional trigger like boredom, stress, fatigue, tension, depression, anger, anxiety or loneliness. Instead of responding to hunger, they respond to emotions.

Dealing with their feelings this way makes it impossible for them to remember what true hunger feels like. Instead they eat to seek comfort and relief from the pain or tension or any negative emotion.

We all at one point of time may have let our feelings overrule our appetite and then regretted it. However, when emotional eating or compulsive eating becomes a person’s only technique for dealing with troublesome emotions or negative feelings, it poses a serious problem. It can pave the way for a variety of other complications and issues, starting with obesity.

As emotional eating disorder leads you to consume an excessive amount of calories in short periods of time, it, often, results in unwanted weight gain.

Another disorder that stems from obsessive and frequent emotional eating is binge eating. Frequent uncontrollable binge eating episodes are typically brought on by stress, loneliness, depression or anxiety.

These often result in a cyclical pattern where negative emotions lead to emotional eating, which in turn, results in additional feelings of depression or self-hatred for bingeing. The more dangerous aspect of bingeing is, perhaps, bulimia.

It is an extremely dangerous outcome of emotional eating where a person binges             excessively, and follows it with an extreme and unhealthy attempt to purge the fat and calories just consumed. Purging behaviours mainly include vomiting, laxative abuse or over-exercising. These are unsafe and are known to result in a number of health complications.

Identifying what triggers emotional    eating is the first step for treating this       disorder. The second step is developing   alternatives to your over-eating habits. So the next time you try to reach for food in response to an emotional trigger, change your direction towards some pleasurable activities.

Try reading, listening to music, spa treatment, breathing exercises, dancing, or playing board games, until your urge to eat passes. In addition, it’s a good idea to consult a clinical psychologist, who can help you with adaptive coping strategies.

Just remember: overcoming emotional eating isn't about depriving yourself; it's about developing adaptive and healthy coping mechanisms and handling emotional issues positively.

(The writer is a clinical psychologist at Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, Delhi)

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